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March 15, 2010 | by  | in Film | [ssba]


FilmWhen we were kids, only nerds kept every single Lego piece. Only prissy kids laid their porcelain dolls on the bed. Everyone else buzz-cut their Barbies, rendered them legless, and pen-painted their genitalia. We were devoid of respect towards our toys, because they in turn were devoid of life, energy and animation. The 9 toys should have been around when we were kids. Complete with spirit, personality, and considerable animation, these characters exude a life that drives Shane Acker’s debut feature film to reach its audience beyond the superficial appreciation of the pretty pictures on the screen.

The movie opens with 9—a hand-crafted rag doll—who wakes up to find himself in a post-apocalyptic world where man is dead and machines reign. Finding solace in similarly stitched friends, 9 takes on the role of leader as the characters embark on a rescue mission where trust is gained, relationships are formed, and our respect for toys is amplified as the characters kick some serious bot ass. We quickly begin to care about these determined wee dolls as their individual personalities successfully shine through their one-dimensional and un-relatable exteriors (of, er, material).

Elijah Wood plays 9 and, complete with his small features and googly eyes, possesses a curious similarity to his animated counterpart. Drawing from his Lord of the Rings days, Wood embraces little man syndrome once again to produce a fine performance of (very) wide-eyed bewilderment and bravery throughout this David and Goliath-esque storyline.

The animation is one hour and 30 minutes of luminescence. Wikipedia tells us Shane Acker used a series of pretentious-sounding design software to create the images, but what is translated on the screen speaks for itself. Every stitch, thread and tie of the dolls, every bolt of the machines, and every nuance of the desolate environment is presented with enchanting clarity. Acker’s ability to produce such a quality body of animated work is a victory for David and a big two fingers up to the duopoly of animation Goliaths, Dreamworks and Pixar.

But not even Acker’s collaboration with Tim Burton could ensure 9’s perfection. Unfortunately, the strain of expanding from an Oscar-nominated short film exposes its cracks with a linear, predictable plotline. Despite creating almost three-dimensional images on the screen, Acker fails with his one-dimensional writing which consequentially produces a sag in this beautiful, digitally-stitched doll of a film.

Director: Shane Acker


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